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The Big Huerta Suffers for His Art, Blakey

art%20blakey%20port OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week’s session is all about jazz drummer Art Blakey also known as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. I had the pleasure to have seen Art play two times before he left us in 1990. Man, I still remember the day he passed like it was yesterday. A friend of mine called me at work and told me to sit down. He then broke the news to me. I was that much of an Art Blakey fan (even though Art chastised me and called me out in the middle of one of his performances, more on that later). A brief rundown of Art is in order for he may not be a household word in some places, remind me never to go there, and hopefully some of you will go exploring on Spotify or whatever afterwards (my faves include “Moanin”, “Blues March”,”Along Came Betty”, “Split Kick” and all of his work with Thelonious Monk especially The London Sessions).

Art played with all of the greats. He studied under Chick Webb then went on to play with Mr. B (Billy Eckstine) then later with Charlie Parker, Diz, Thelonious, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn to name a few. He also led his own group, The Jazz Messengers, that employed a virtual who’s who of future jazz talents. Art was a leader in the bebop drumming style that became “hard bop” and also a musical teacher and preached about jazz to the uninitiated, spreading the jazz gospel to all parts of the globe. As like most musicians in that era, Art fell under the use of some heavy drugs and drink. He earned another reputation for his large appetite of music, women and food.

I have completed two paintings on the subject of Art Blakey. The first one was painted on a Remo 14” snare drum head using acrylics and metallic paints (courtesy Louise Bialik collection). This is Art in action. The Art we love, yelling instruction or encouragement, or chastising a young drunk, as he punches his driving, percussive riffs with authority. The second one is an EP cover that I dreamed up in the style of influential artist (and if you’re a record collector, you have his works somewhere in your collection) David Stone Martin (his style is a big influence on me without my knowing it…probably all those hours of just studying LP and EP covers alone in my room because I was such a popular dude). I picture this as some sort of Jazz Messengers Live in Italy sort of thang.

Okay, to address the story of Art yelling at me during his performance. Well, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see Art play in Los Angeles at a little jazz club, maybe it was the Catalina Bar and Grill, not sure, but we were very close to the bandstand and as luck would have it, I had read that afternoon that one of John Lennon’s favorite drink was a Brandy Alexander (in fact, this was the drink he had been imbibing when he got kicked out of the Troubadour, the Kotex incident), so of course I had to have one or five throughout the evening (they taste like milkshakes!)…dig, before the show, I had to use the restroom and as luck would have it, Mr. Blakey was also in there…well we exchanged pleasantries and the alcohol gave me the chutzpah to ask Art for a pic..so he graciously posed with me and some dude coming out of the restroom leans in too. So I have a pic of him and me and some other drunk dude that I call the legendary Cold Duck William, famous jazz pianist, whenever peeps ask who the other dude in the pic is. Anyways, Art is playing and he’s up their between songs gospelizing to the crowd and me being the avid supporter of the arts, as I am, punctuate his sentences with “right on, Art…you tell ‘em” or “say it Art!” or “yeah baby, you go”..I had many encouraging riffs in my drunken repertoire that evening. Needless, to say Art didn’t dig some drunken young man interrupting his spewing so he looks at me and points to me and says “you hush your mouth”. My girlfriend then elbowed me to the ribs like Bill Laimbeer in his prime. Not sure what hurt more, the elbow or being called out by a jazz icon. So kids, a lesson to be learned, do not drink Brandy Alexander’s in small clubs in L.A.

meandarta

1 Comment

  1. Indira on March 22, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Great article. Thanks! That is some silver belt he is wearing!

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